Is it time to bury Flash for good?

Flash is something which has wowed clients for some years now. It looks impressive on your developer’s desktop, and fantastic in client pitches. New clients are impressed with some agencies’ design capabilities because Flash sites look attractive. That is pretty much where pure 100% Flash websites belong, on power points, in pitches but not in real web designs.

Look, of course Flash does have its uses. Some online gaming is driven with Flash, along campaign driven micro sites which have above the line viral concepts. Flash does work, but only in targeted strategies.

Apple does not support Flash, most mobile phone browsers don’t, and most desktop browsers require plugins to be able to view Flash sites. Google spiders do not read it at all. In fact, pure Flash sites are terrible for SEO because they are not user friendly and take forever to load. Flash sites are not aimed at delivering information but for the “wow” factor they generate. That’s what YouTube is for; if you love video Flash advertising, create a YouTube channel for your client.

Ok, let me take a deep breath — Flash has its pros and cons, so please don’t think I hate it, because I don’t. I just feel that its purpose in web design has been used incorrectly by some. No brand that is serious about its online presence can have a purely Flash-based website.

Perhaps this seems like a controversial statement. Is the “wow” factor more important than being found on search engines (SEO) and being compatible with devices and browsers? No. There is no point in having a “wow” website which no one can find or use.

You can rank Flash sites through cloaking, but it’s only a matter of time before Google slams down on this. There are cases proving that this has already happened, but then there was talk that Google was going to support Flash. I have seen some indication but not to the degree that Google has stated.

Many design houses are using a combination of Flash (usually for banners etc) with crawlable HTML5/CSS3. Is there any point, however, in this strategy if Flash is still not compatible with all that many devices?

I think a combination works. That’s what Flash was intended for in web design — to play a part in design, not to take it over. Crawlable HTML5/CSS3, along with numerous other platforms have the same “wow” factor as Flash.

These platforms are compatible with most devices and are fantastic for Google ranking, which means SEO is a winner. Flash is also a closed source, so development is expensive. I know that Adobe has plans, Microsoft has Silverlight, and Google labs recently launched a Flash-to-HTML5- converter called swiffy. As time progresses, however, it seems that Flash is being left alone in the distant horizon, or being used inappropriately.

Online marketers need to be honest with their clients. Online eCommerce websites would never gain the revenues that they do if they had pure Flash websites. It’s very common, however, to see huge brands with impressive flashy websites which have high bounce rates, and poor compatibility, thus meaning no one is actually “wowed”.

Is online development not about creating exposure or revenue for the client? Sure, let’s be sexy about our online brand presence, but let’s never forsake exposure or sales purely to be “flashy” (excuse the pun), when the primary goal (for most brands at any rate) is to put money in the bank, whether through exposure or sales.

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